Flying for the very first time can seem like a daunting prospect. You may ask yourself, what documents do I need? What counts as hand luggage? Will the journey go smoothly? The latter question may be especially concerning to a first-time flyer, but as long as you’re well-prepared and in the know, before you take off, this fear and any others you might have about the flight itself will soon be at the back of your mind.
Taking a flight for the very first time should be both a relaxing and exciting experience. Your window gives you a vista like no other, and you’ll always be in the company of friendly and helpful crew members to answer all your questions. So, even if you’re traveling alone, it won’t mean that you have to be left in the dark.
It might not seem so now, but in time, you’ll come to see traveling by plane as just another mode of transport like taking the bus or the train to work. Only this way, you’ll be more comfortable, have a unique view, and get to drink wine while watching your favorite comedy film! Trust us, you got this. And if you’re still not convinced, well, just keep reading…
25 Try To Relax
Okay, we know this is easier said than done for some of us out there, especially if you have a predisposed phobia of flying, but flying can be a pleasant and even an enjoyable experience if you try not to overthink things. A few good tips for reducing your anxiety levels while on board are things like closing the window shade so you don’t have to watch the scenery whizzing by.
You could also try some deep breathing exercises to help relax you during takeoff/landing since this is sometimes the most nerve-wracking part for some. If your fear goes a little deeper than general anxiety of flying, taking a course in overcoming your phobia could be well worth your time. You can experience all the sounds and sensations of an aircraft in a simulation to let you become gradually familiar with the real thing.
24 Arrive At The Airport 2-3 Hours Early
The phrase better to be safe than sorry? Well, it couldn’t apply more to air travel. If all you’ve ever come to know about flying has been learned through news reports of delays on TV or your friends complaining about long waits in the terminal, then now is not the time to play the comparison game. As tempting as it might be to head to the airport shortly before your flight, don’t. Just don’t. Everything will turn into a chaotic rush, and worst of all, you could risk paying thousands more because you missed your plane.
For a comfortable and non-stressful flying experience, you should aim to arrive at the airport around 2-3 hours before you take off. That way (as much as you might have gone over your intensity at home), you’ll have plenty of time to check in your luggage, go through airport security, and still have time to spare for a coffee or a bite to eat in the bar. Sorted.
23 Book A Specific Seat For Comfort
If you’re already feeling a tad trepidatious about flying, then you don’t need to give yourself an extra reason to feel uncomfortable. If you’re worried that you might feel claustrophobic on your first flight, make sure to book your flight early enough to choose your own plane seat. Depending on the airline you fly with or the season, this might cost you a little extra, but if it makes your first flight more bearable, then it’s definitely worthwhile.
If you require a seat with a decent amount of recline in it, for example, or have a preference for a window seat over an aisle one, then you be sure to choose a specific seat when booking your flight. If the right seat is that important to you, you can use the site ExpertyFlyer.com to get sent seat alerts so you can travel when your preferred one is available.
22 Check If You Will Need A Visa
If you’re hopping on an international flight, don’t forget that you may need a Visa to be allowed entry into your specific desired country. Research your destination carefully first or alternatively. You can use an online Visa-checking tool to see if you qualify for one based on your chosen country, your citizenship type, and your reason for traveling whether for pleasure or business purposes, etc.
The type of Visa you need as well as how long it takes to be processed can vary widely depending on your chosen destination, so it’s super important that you check all this out before making any plans or bookings for your trip. To be on the safe side, always ensure you have your Visa squared before buying a plane ticket.
21 Always Bring Paper Documents
The world might have gone digital for pretty much everything nowadays, but when it comes to something as important as air travel, paper is your friend. It’s all well and good to have your boarding pass saved on your phone or in a travel app, but as we all know, technology isn’t always super reliable. And even when it is, there’s a chance that you could lose your phone charger too.
To be on the safe side and for ultimate peace of mind on your first flight ever, be sure to bring along paper copies of everything you’ll need for traveling. This includes things like your travel insurance papers and hotel booking confirmations, as well as all the documents you’ll need for the actual flight itself.
20 Stock Up On Travel Minis
As much as you might want to bring your favorite can of large hairspray or deodorant on board with you, they’re going to need to stay back home because airlines won’t allow it. Regular-sized aerosol cans and the like are a little too large and possibly unsafe for air travel, but the good news is you can buy pretty much any miniature (3 fluid ounce) versions of a brand shampoo or body spray you like, and these are fine to travel with.
All carry-on gels, creams, aerosol products, etc. in your hand luggage usually need to be 3.4 fl. oz. or less to be acceptable for air travel, and they should always be carried in a clear bag or case. You can find mini travel bottles of your favorite products in most supermarkets.
19 Join A Frequent Flyer Scheme
This may be your first ever flight, but there’s no reason why you can’t start getting the benefits of a flyers loyalty scheme. If you know that, for whatever reason, this is the first of many trips you’ll be making for work reasons or to visit a loved one back and forth, then you might as well reap the rewards of being a frequent flyer with your first ever journey.
There are many different kinds of frequent flyer mile reward schemes you can sign up to, and depending on which one applies to you best, you don’t even need to be hopping on a plane every week or so to reap some kind of benefit from it. If you’re not sure where to start, you can find free signup forms online or at the check-in desk at the airport itself.
18 Get Travel Insurance
When you’re booking your holiday in the sun for 2 weeks and shopping for a whole new beach wardrobe, suffering an accident or illness while on holiday is probably the last thing on your mind. But, it can happen and you don’t want your well-deserved vacay ruined because of it. One of the most important things you can do (especially when flying for the first time) is to make sure you have travel insurance.
Falling ill is no picnic on any holiday, but when traveling abroad, you might need treatment and you can be hit with the kind of medical bill that makes a duty-free bottle of Cristal seem cheap. Travel insurance can vary depending on which company you go with, so browse around until you find a price and policy that will work for you.
17 Research In-flight Meal Options
Depending on the length of your flight, an in-flight meal might not apply to you, but if you’re traveling a fair distance and will be needing some grub, make sure to check out the menu before you fly. This is especially important if you or someone else you’re traveling with happens to have food allergy or a specific requirement for being vegan or gluten intolerant, etc.
The last thing you need on your first ever flight is getting sick from the airline food before you even arrive, so be sure to do your research when it comes to food options. In any case, it’s always nice to find out what’s being served on your specific airline. The menu can be pretty limited, so it’s good to know what to expect in case you hadn’t eaten before the flight.
16 Keep Your Travel Documents In An Organizer
Seasoned flyers may keep their passport in one coat pocket and their plane ticket balanced between their fingers, a coffee, and a rolled-up newspaper. But to put your mind at ease on your very first flight, it’s nice to have everything you’ll possibly need in one place so that, on top of everything, you don’t have to worry that something important has gone (or could go) missing easily.
That’s why it’s probably a good idea to invest in a wallet organizer or document holder that has separate sections for your passport, boarding pass, booking info, travel insurance papers, etc. If you stuff your important papers and passes in a jumbled mess in your handbag, your experience of flying is likely to be a traumatic one before it’s even begun.
15 Know Your Carry-on Size
When flying, it isn’t just the size of your main hold luggage that you have to consider—most airlines require you to have a specific size of carry-on luggage or cabin bag as well because if it doesn’t fit either under your set or in the overhead compartment above your seat, it could be obstructing other passengers and can be considered dangerous. For the sake of the staff and other travelers on board, it’s important to know your carry-on size in advance.
Domestic and international flights can have different rules when it comes to the size of carry-on bags, so just be sure to check your airline’s bag restrictions first. A handbag or tote that might seem a modest size to you may not be allowed on the plane, and it would be a shame if you neatly packed everything you needed for the journey only to be told that it’s not coming on with you.
14 Get An International Calls Phone Plan
If you happen to be leaving the country on your first ever flight, it’s easy to forget about what this will mean for your phone. Want to make a call to a loved one to tell them you arrived safely? Or maybe you want to take a photo of some breathtaking sight and want to share it over text or email to a friend? Of course, you do. You’re only human! The thing is, this is gonna cost you a small fortune if you don’t have an international phone plan in place.
Before you travel, check in with your phone provider about international calling and data roaming plans. You can either call them up to arrange one or buy them online. Whether you’re a lover of sharing stuff on social media or like to keep it simple with calls and texts, you can find a travel phone plan that works for you.
13 Travel (Fairly) Light
While you might be tempted to bring a wardrobe’s worth of holiday clothes and sun hats with you on holiday, it’s generally a good rule of thumb to not overpack (especially since you’re probably going to return with more than you had before if you’re bringing back souvenirs). Not only will an overstuffed suitcase be no fun to lug around the airport, it will also end up costing you a little extra when it comes to checking in your luggage if it’s over a certain weight.
If you’re confused as to what to pack–and the best way of going about it–you can find reams of handy packing hacks and printable packing checklists to ensure that you only pack what you really need. It’s tempting to be swept up by the excitement of your first trip abroad, but try not to overthink it.
12 Don’t Exchange Excess Amounts Before Travelling
If you’re traveling abroad on your first ever plane journey, you might be imagining that you’ll need massive amounts of spending money and ‘just in case’ funds for when you’re out there. But trust us, you don’t. Exchanging lots of your cash into the local currency might seem like a safe bet at the time, but this can just lead to headaches once you arrive, especially if it happens to get lost or stolen along the way.
As with the overpacking rule, you should only ever realistically exchange what you think you’ll need. If you plan your budget carefully enough, you’ll have a good idea of the amount you’ll need to survive your trip. And for anything extra, you can stop by an ATM of your local bank branch in most countries.
11 Bring A Book/Magazine With You
Once you’ve done everything that needs to be done before actually boarding the plane (checking your luggage, going through airport security, etc.), you may have a lot of spare time on your hands. If this is the case, it’s always worth bringing some form of entertainment with you, as well as some added entertainment if you’re traveling with little ones!
Most people would opt for using their phones or music players to keep them entertained at the airport, but we’d also suggest bringing along a book or magazine with you. In the first place, you might need to preserve your phone battery for showing your digital boarding pass later, but also, there’s a chance that you could miss some important announcement about your flight if your headphones are blaring.
10 Check Your Baggage Weight And Size Beforehand
Unlike when traveling by train or by bus, you will have to consider the size and quantity of your luggage since you might be charged extra if your luggage exceeds certain measurements. To make life a little easier for you on the day of traveling, make sure to research the airline you’re flying with ahead of time. They will have all the specific info on what you can and can’t take with you, as well as the luggage weight and size restrictions.
The charges for luggage weight and dimensions can vary depending on which airline you travel with. For American Airlines, for example, the measurements for baggage allowance is typically a maximum weight of 50 lbs (23 kg) before a charge is added to your check-in fee.
9 Listen To The Safety Announcements
It might seem like we’re stating the obvious here, but you’ll be surprised by how few people actually pay attention to the safety notices once they’re on the plane. Frequent flyers might ignore it altogether since they’ve heard it all before, but as a first-time flyer, listening out for the basic safety measures and what to do in an emergency will put your mind at ease.
It needn’t be scary to listen to either—remember that what you’re told may actually help save your life as well as the life of someone else on board. And if the idea of hearing the safety notices for the first time while you’re on the plane makes you anxious, you can always find the info in your own time online if you prefer.
8 Avoid Wearing Jewelry Or Impractical Footwear
Going through airport security can be one of the most lengthy parts of the air travel experience, so if you’re planning on dressing up as Mr. T for your flight, then for the sake of yourself and others, it might be worth reconsidering your traveling outfit. As you may already be aware, you should avoid wearing any clothing or accessories that are metallic in any way as you might be asked to remove these when you go through airport security.
This also goes for the shoes you choose to wear on the day you travel. First off, make sure they’re comfortable as you might be standing in the security line for a while, but most importantly, be sure to wear sensible shoes that can be removed easily. If you’re asked to take your shoes off for security reasons, lace-up high-top boots are probably not the way to go.
7 Check That Your Passport Is Fit For Travel
A big mistake most first-time flyers (and even some seasoned flyers) make is booking a trip without making sure that their passport is in order. By this, we mean whether or not your passport has or is running close to its expiry date. Unless you’ve recently bought your first ever passport to go on your first ever trip, there are some first-time flyers who might assume that the passport they’ve had in a drawer but never used until now will be fine. But trust us, this isn’t always the case, and you don’t want to find it out the hard way.
Depending on your destination, there are some countries that will not allow you to travel to them if your passport is six months off the expiration date. If you are traveling with a child, you might also forget in your haste of booking the trip away that they may need one too. Always make sure your passport is fly-ready.
6 Listen Out For Your Gate Number
Once you have your plane ticket with you, you will have a specific gate number printed on it to tell you where your plane will depart from. Generally, your gate number shouldn’t change from the day you book your ticket to the day you’re scheduled to fly. But, gate numbers can sometimes change due to delays or cancellations on the day, so just make sure to keep an eye out for any announcements about a flight alteration.
You can normally see this on the numerous departure monitors dotted about the airport to make sure you have the most up-to-date info about your flight or you can always ask a member of staff if you want to be 100 percent sure.
5 Pay For In-Flight Refreshments By Card, Not Cash
You may have already booked a meal option as part of your flight, but for long haul journeys where you might want a bit of both, snacks and drinks are normally available on the plane. If this is the case, then make sure to bring your debit or credit card with you on board as cash payments are normally not accepted.
Depending on your chosen airline and whether you’re flying in economy or first class, you may be offered some complementary tea or coffee and a light snack, but usually, this will cost you a little extra. Flight attendants will also try and sell you luxury products like perfume and accessories, but unless you have a great need for them, these are generally overpriced.
4 Check And Double-Check Your Bags Once You Arrive
Once your first ever flight is over, you could be feeling exhilarated, relieved, groggy, or all of the above. And considering the fact that you could be landing in a different time zone, jet lag will also be thrown into the mix so it can all get a bit disorienting. This is why it’s especially important that you double and triple-check that you have everything with you before you leave.
Even the frequent travelers among us can misplace something once they’ve come off a long haul flight, so you’re not alone in your anxiety that you might lose your passport or credit card once you arrive. To put your mind at ease, it’s always best to check and recheck your seat and your carry-on luggage to ensure that you have everything you came on board with.
3 Double-Check Your Airport Location
This might sound like a glaringly obvious point, but when it comes to booking your flight, you need to take note of the specific airport that you’ll be both departing from and touching down in on the other side. For example, you are leaving for Orlando, Florida from New York. Your booking confirmation may state in simple terms that your destination airport is ‘Orlando FL’, but this could mean one of many airports.
The destination as printed on your tickets and boarding pass, for instance, will appear like ‘MCO’ for Orlando International or ‘SFB’ for Orlando Sanford Int’l. Airport. Confusing, right? It needn’t be so long as you make doubly sure where you’ll be headed. Otherwise, you might end up wasting money on a rental car that’s waiting for you on the other side of the city!
2 If You’re Running Late, Ask To Skip The Queue At Security
The line for airport security is probably one of the most tedious parts of air travel, and everyone wants to get it over with as quickly as possible. But if you happen to be running late for catching your flight, this can go from tedious to terrifying pretty quickly. As we mentioned earlier, it’s always worth arriving hours earlier than you have to at the airport. But in case of lateness, you can always try your luck at skipping ahead in line.
Nobody likes a bossy queue cutter, but so long as you ask your fellow passengers politely, most people will be happy to accommodate a flyer who needs to catch a plane pronto, especially given that you’re a first-time flyer (although, try not to use that excuse next time!).
1 Bring Some Earbuds With You
As with any other mode of travel, not every journey is a pleasant one. But for something as big as your first flight, you probably want to make it as stress-free and pleasant as possible, right? In this case, we recommend taking some earbuds on board with you. That classic cliché of the screaming baby on the plane? It happens more often than you might think, and you’ll be thankful you brought something to block that out, especially if you’re traveling on a long flight!
Whether or not you’re unlucky to share your first plane with a crying toddler, earbuds will always come in handy if you’d prefer to block out the noises of the engine if this makes you nervous or to simply help you catch 40 winks on the way. If you forget to bring some, most flights will usually have some spare for you on board.